Lessons from a Perpetually Punctual Girl

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Patience may not be my strongest virtue, but timeliness reigns high on my list of qualities. I am (and always have been) on time to everything, and though my Midwestern upbringing keeps me modest, I’m proud of my punctuality. In fact, I’ve only been tardy once in my life. You can imagine the horror I felt when I was not 10, not 15, but 30 minutes late to work.

Allow me to explain.

I’m one of the writing tutors at Luther College, a job that comes with a fairly flexible work schedule. If a tutor cannot work his or her regularly scheduled shift, he or she can easily find someone to cover a shift. I’m usually the employee that’s got everyone’s back, partly because I have the luxury of a considerable amount of free time, but mostly because I genuinely enjoy my job.

I covered most frequently for a girl named Emma; she worked on Monday nights. When a fellow tutor and friend ran into me in the library, she asked on Emma’s behalf if I could take the latter’s shift. I happily obliged; I could look forward to another rewarding night of tutoring. However, there was just one problem. Emma’s confidante approached me on Monday, the day of Emma’s shift, assuming I understood that I would cover that night’s shift. Amidst a subconscious attempt to beat the Monday blues, I convinced myself it was already Wednesday. The human brain never ceases to amaze me.

Later that night, as the first 20 minutes of Emma’s shift ticked by, I lay curled up on my futon making the most of my Netflix subscription, blissfully unaware that my coworkers had been waiting for me since 7 p.m. When 7:30 p.m. arrived, I received a worried message from a fellow tutor asking, “Um, are you planning to come to work??”

A wave of realization washed over me and my heart sank. I was late. Very, very late.

How could I have allowed this to happen? I usually show up to work 30 minutes early. My idea of showing up “fashionably late” means I arrive five minutes early. I am never late—it isn’t in my nature

As I dashed across campus with one shoe untied and my hair a terrible mess, I began to think of all the possible consequences of my oversight. What if my boss comes to the Writing Center to check in on us and realizes I’m not there? What if he fires me on the spot? Will the students I tutor lose all respect for me? Will I be forever branded as *gasp* the late girl?

To make matters worse, I couldn’t argue that I was late on account of some noble, forgivable endeavor like writing the next great American novel or fighting to end world hunger. No, I spent my precious time watching episode after episode of the cheesy 80s drama Murder, She Wrote. I wouldn’t just clock-in late, I would be saddled with a late time stamp for a completely embarrassing reason. I would never live this down; I felt sure of it.

I arrived breathless and apologetic, but no one seemed as bothered by my lateness as me. On the contrary, my coworkers were actually quite sympathetic; they laughed at my ridiculous worries and assured me that everything would end up all right. My boss nowhere in sight, I kept my job and absolutely no one referred to me as “the late girl.” So as it turns out, showing up late to work didn’t make the sky fall down on me.

I don’t share this story with you to brag about my punctuality, but rather to show that tardiness isn’t the end of the world. We’re only human. Plus, there’s a high chance of your coworkers, friends, parents, professors and neighbors running late once or twice.

I’m not here to encourage anyone to make a habit of over-sleeping, but next time your head starts to spin because your class started five minutes ago, just take a breath and remember the end of the world isn’t approaching. Take it from me—even perfectly punctual people tend to be late every now and then.

Kate is a junior at Luther College who is majoring in English with minors in education and linguistics. She is a fan of Rod Serling, Van Halen, and rescue dogs, and thinks wordplay is really punny.

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